Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell has a new challenger in former City Council member Brigid Shea. Shea is a co-founder of Save Our Springs, an environmental group that advocates the protection of the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs. As a one-term council member, she was often critical of urban development projects and sometimes “savaged opponents,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Shea criticized Leffingwell’s treatment of the recent education finance debate as too lenient and hopes to make the issue a rallying point in her new pursuit of elected office. Leffingwell has been a proactive advocate of education despite the mostly symbolic role of the mayor in the matter.
Additionally, Shea described Leffingwell as “tone deaf” to the needs of the city’s citizens because of his support of the Formula One track proposal and a convention hotel downtown, projects that aim to create a diverse local economy.
This rigidly pro-environment stance is one also championed by newly elected council member Kathie Tovo. Tovo, who defeated incumbent Randi Shade, received her strongest support from typically development-averse neighborhood associations.
When Shea was a council member in the 1990s, she fervently opposed development, and it seems that her position on the topic has altered very little, if at all. This unyielding attitude would be dangerous in a mayor of a city that is growing very rapidly. As one of the five fastest growing cities in America, Austin needs a mayor that is open to positive urban change, or it risks stagnation.